Carl Yirka, a long-time Vermont Law School professor and friend, passed away over the weekend, after a long battle with cancer. Carl was a wonderful human being, a great friend and colleague during my time at VLS, and a witty travel companion extraordinaire. In addition to the time I spent with him on matters related to the VLS China program, one of my fondest memories with him dates back to a 1999 trip to Petrozavodsk, Russia. It was right around the summer solstice, and we were there for a short environmental law teaching stint. We arrived into St. Petersburg on a flight from the US. After a full day exploring St. Petersburg, the evening/night-time van ride to Petrozavodsk was one of the most memorable (but also bizarre) trips that I have ever experienced. Since it was the summer solstice and since St. Petersburg is located at a relatively high northern latitude (approximately the same as Anchorage, Alaska), daylight lasted almost 24 hours. Driving during these “White Nights” basically meant traveling through a rural landscape where people were doing gardening, recreation, and other activities at a time when everyone would ordinarily be asleep. For the entire 4-5 hour drive there, the driver kept telling us that we were about to arrive even though it would be hours longer. The road seemed to go on forever, and the sun kept hovering around the horizon but never set. It was an experience that could have come straight from a Twilight Zone episode. And to cap it all off, when we arrived, we had a full Russian dinner with our hosts at around midnight.
“. . . the University of Miami School of Law is seeking a dynamic and experienced lawyer-educator to direct and teach its Environmental Justice Clinic for the 2020-21 school year. The Interim Director will have the opportunity to join the vibrant and supportive clinical community at Miami Law for a year while Miami Law embarks on the formal process to bring in a permanent Director; the Interim Director may apply to the permanent position once it is open.
The Environmental Justice Clinic (EJC) advocates for and seeks to empower low-and moderate-income communities who disproportionately bear the environmental, economic, and health burdens of the development, implementation, and enforcement of the law. Employing a community lawyering approach, the Clinic seeks systemic change for our clients through advocacy, public policy resources, rights education, and transactional assistance. The Clinic’s work sits at the intersection of civil rights, environmental, poverty, and public health law, tackling issues in South Florida including climate change, displacement, contamination, environmental health, municipal equity, and more. Increasingly, the Clinic views its work through the lens of climate change, one of the most significant social justice issues of our time, and which will be felt most acutely by the poor and marginalized.
The position is a full-time, one-year non-tenure track faculty position. The full job description is attached. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the position is filled, however applicants are strongly encouraged to apply for this position before April 30, 2020.”
In following the developments and emergencies related to the novel coronavirus around the world and helping to determine responses to the impacts on our campus, I forgot to post this essay that came out last month in the Enviromental Forum: “Emergence and Convergence.”
Starting next semester, Santa Clara Law students can expect to see an even more globally diverse campus as the Law School and the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (“ITESO”) have signed a new exchange agreement that will open up exciting opportunities for law students and faculty of both institutions.
ITESO is a Jesuit university founded in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1957. Like Santa Clara Law, ITESO is known for its academic excellence, a deep concern for both local and global contexts, and its commitment to social justice. Santa Clara’s Center for Global Law & Policy trains students to meet the challenges of globalization for the practice of law and supports cutting-edge faculty research in international and comparative law to advance justice and the common good.
Pre-Law Magazine once again gave Santa Clara Law’s International Law program an “A+.” Regarding our International Law program, the magazine stated, “Santa Clara University School of Law in California, another A+ school in this specialty, is home to the Center for Global Law and Policy, which offers the largest and one of the oldest summer aboard programs in the nation. It offers nine summer class programs as well as more than 30 externship options, including working in large international law firms, local firms, nongovernmental organizations, courts, international organizations and the UN.”
“This is a one-year fellowship (with the possibility of renewal) based in University of Miami School of Law’s Environmental Justice Clinic. For more information on how to join our team and on our cutting edge work, please go to: https://tinyurl.com/ejcmysunappThe deadline to apply is January 31, 2020.
The University of Miami School of Law’s Environmental Justice Clinic advocates for and seeks to empower low-and moderate-income communities who disproportionately bear the environmental, economic, and health burdens of the development, implementation, and enforcement of the law. Employing a community lawyering approach, we seek systemic change for our clients through advocacy, public policy resources, rights education, and transactional assistance. Our work sits at the intersection of civil rights, environmental, poverty, and public health law, tackling issues in South Florida including climate change, displacement, contamination, environmental health, municipal equity, and more. Increasingly, we view our work through the lens of climate change, one of the most significant social justice issues of our time, and which will be felt most acutely by the poor and marginalized.”
In 2009, a new mode of financial transactions came into the hands of consumers worldwide through the creation of Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is a digital payment currency that utilizes cryptocurrency and peer-to-peer technology to create and manage monetary transactions without the intervention of banks and outside the scrutiny of government entities. Individuals can get bitcoins in several ways including purchasing them with ‘real’ money, accepting payment in bitcoins, and participating in bitcoin mining. While most people are aware of about Bitcoin’s significant presence and success in the financial market, many are unaware of the impact bitcoin mining has on the environment.
Bitcoin mining is performed by high-powered computers solving complex computational math problems. When a computer solves a puzzle, it then stores that information in a blockchain. A blockchain is a database storing bitcoin transaction records that is distributed across peer-to-peer network. When bitcoin miners add a new block of transactions to the blockchain, they are awarded bitcoin. As simple as that sounds, bitcoin is only awarded to the miners that solve the puzzles first. The competition surrounding bitcoin mining led to individuals seeking out more powerful computers, faster internet connection, and cheaper infrastructural services, especially electricity, to maximize the possibility of profiting from bitcoin mining.
Unfortunately, there is a darker side to that modern treasure hunt for riches. Computers must be run continuously and as a result, create significant demands on the energy sector. A typical server consumes approximately 1.5 kilowatts of energy. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of machines engaged in Bitcoin mining, and the environmental impact is significant. Bitcoin miners have also started to locate their computational mining equipment in geographical locations that have less restrictive environmental regulations and that offer cheap energy in order to enhance their profits. As a result, cryptocurrency mining has relied on both dirty energy sources, such as coal, as well as renewable energy. Depending on the energy source, researchers estimate that crypto mining can produce up to 15 million tons of global carbon emissions annually. Yet, local and federal governments have not created regulatory oversight mechanisms to address these new environmental issues caused by crypto mining. Undoubtedly, as new kinds of cryptocurrencies emerge and gain popularity, new regulations directing actions of bitcoin miners will have to be considered in the near future.